The Creative Ziio 7 runs Android 2.1, an operating system not designed to run on tablets. As such, some magic had to be worked to fit it in into this tablet. The Ziio 7 uses a custom interface, and has its own ZiiStore app store rather than the standard Android Market.
This interface is thankfully very simple, and attractive. There’s a dock at the bottom of the home screen that holds icon links to the ZiiMusic, ZiiVideo and ZiiPhoto apps (and yes, we wish they’d drop the Zii tag here too), and the web browser. Tapping on the arrow at the top of this dock brings up the full apps menu. The rest of the screen is free for you to fill with widgets and shortcuts, and with multiple home screens to clutter-up as you see fit, it feels much like using an oversized Android phone, or indeed the similar Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet.
Very few custom widgets beyond the Android basics are included, but the couple added come in very handy. The Task Manager widget tells you how many apps are currently running in the background and the Pure Android Audio widget lets you control audio settings and connect with a pair of Bluetooth headphones from your home screen – not useful for all, but neat nevertheless. To accompany the Task Manager widget, there’s also a full app to let you close any, or all, running apps – a good way to keep system performance and battery life in check.
Things come grinding to a halt once you try to get more apps for your new Ziio 7 tablet though. Creative has produced the ZiiStore to supply apps for the Zii 7 and Zii 10 tablets, but in its present state it’s an awful replacement for the Android Market, and significantly worse than Archos’s longer-running AppsLib. The selection of apps available is very poor, and navigation is bafflingly slow – with a 1GHz A8 processor on-board general navigation is usually reasonably fast, but it’s painfully slow within the ZiiStore.
We rummaged around for an hour or two to see what extra functionality we could add to the Zii 7 and came up short. We couldn’t find a decent internet radio player, many apps there were inexplicably not at all optimised for use with the 480×800 pixel screen (when it’s a standard Android phone resolution) and few games. And no Angry Birds.
The Android OS isn’t that easy to tie down though, as non app store apps can also be installed if you enabled “unknown source” installations within the settings menu. Unshackled from the terrible ZiiStore, the Zii 7 becomes a far more attractive prospect. Using nothing more than the tablet’s browser, Wi-Fi access and a couple of helpful Android freeware sites, we soon had adventure game emulator ScummVM, TuneIn Radio, Twitter client AndTweet and Facebook installed. Yes, and Angry Birds too.
The official Twitter client and Spotify resolutely failed to install, but the majority of apps we tried worked fine, and displayed properly on the 7in screen. Finding apps on the web was more successful, and simpler, than using the ZiiStore – hopefully Creative will sort this out with an update before the Zii series is trampled by this year’s incoming stampede of tablets.